Museums and Libraries
Fortunately, I live only 90 minutes from
My all time favorite is what I call the "treasure chest" at the National Gallery of Art. Its official name is The Study Room. This explanation of the riches available for study is from the NGA website: “The Gallery's collection of prints, drawings, and illustrated books contains almost 100,000 Western European and American works on paper, dating from the twelfth century to the present day."
Students and “qualifying scholars” can make an appointment to view specific works. I qualify as a “scholar” so you could too. I have spent hours studying one of seven volumes of Rowlandson cartoons. For me they are a cross between a political cartoon and a Jay Leno monologue.
There are also books of architectural drawings published in the early nineteenth century – from lesser known architects like James Paine to the much honored Robert Adam. I came across an interesting anomaly when I compared the two designs they both did for the same house – I am saving that for a later posting.
The National Gallery of Art website is www.nga.gov Once there click on “resources” on the left hand side of the screen for phone number and other pertinent details if you are interested in visiting the study room. If not the website has many of its pieces available for online viewing. Be sure to check out my current favorites Guardi and Canaletto.
Are you interested in the medicine? The National Institute of Health has a special library for those with historical questions in the field. The collection there includes original works and reproductions. The single finest work I ever examined there was Vesalius’s De Humani Corporis Fabrica. When published in 1543 it was a groundbreaking study of the human anatomy in such detail that it took seven volumes to display all Vesalisus's drawings. The work emphasized, for the first time, an anatomical view of the body, signficanly different than what had been seen before -- as Wikipedia says "seeing human internal functioning as an essentially corporeal structure filled with organs arranged in three-dimensional space." Not only is it valuable medically it is also a work of art.
The copy I looked at was a reproduction and I still was awed by the detail and intensity of the drawings. The good news is that this work is now available online. If you have a minute go to www.nlm.nih.gov -- in the search box enter ‘Archives Turn the Page Online’, then click on the first option under the National Library of Medicine. When you are directed to the Turn The Page website click on ‘Books’. De Humani Corporis Fabrica is the third book on the list. Once there you can leaf through Vesalius's masterpeice and read English summaries of the Latin text.
I was going to talk about the supreme experience of the Rare Book Room at the Library of Congress, but I think I will save that for next time. If I were to visit your home town what gallery or library should I be sure to visit?